A 21st Century Attempt at a War of the Worlds Broadcast

War of the Worlds broadcast causes panic

War of the Worlds broadcast causes panic

On Halloween, October 31, 1938, Orson Wells broadcast The War of the Worlds on radio’s Mercury Theatre on the Air.  The 62 minute broadcast, made to sound like it was a live news show, shocked many who tuned in after the disclaimer, and thought that aliens were actually invading the US.  A small panic ensued, although the panic was more media generated, with 12,500 articles reporting on the broadcast, published over the following days.  Even Adolf Hitler was quoted as saying about the broadcast, that it was, “evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy.” (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds_(radio_drama))

Opinions aside, this was one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns of its time, before viral marketing was even invented.  It made a name for Orson Wells, who went on to make great movies like Citizen Kane.

What if this were done today?  What if rather than using radio, the primary broadcast medium of its day, someone used today’s primary broadcast mediums: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and so on to broadcast a dramatization of some similar type of apocalyptic event?  Would it even work?  Let’s find out.

Today’s War of the Worlds

Then:  Orson Wells Today:  ML Banner

Orson Welles in 1937

Orson Welles in 1937

Things are so bright, you gotta wear shades?

M.L. Banner in 2014

Starting October 28th, and leading up to Halloween (10/31/14), I plan such an experiment, to herald the release of my second book, DESOLATION in the STONE AGE Series. These books cover a subject far scarier and believable than alien invasion: solar storms taking out our power and infrastructure, and with it our way of life. We’ll see if I can channel my inner Orson Wells and get the word out.  Assuming it goes as planned, there will be some similarities to both broadcasts and some marketable differences:

Then:  Orson Wells’ broadcast did not draw a large share of the radio listening audience, because most Americans were listening to the more popular Edgar Bergen show.

Today:  I have very few social media followers, but thousands of readers.

Then:  War of the Worlds was broadcast for only 62 minutes.  But it was the press that carried the story several days: this is what made the story viral.

Today:  My plan is to broadcast “bulletins” from STONE AGE though Halloween, the day of DESOLATION’s release.  I am hoping that some social media influencers and some news sources will pick up my “broadcasts”, just as newspapers picked up the story of Orson Wells’ radio broadcasts.

What is the STONE AGE Series?

Stone Age

Stone Age

Imagine all technology stopping! This very well could happen if  large enough solar storms were to hit our earth. The STONE AGE Series of books (www.stoneageseries.com) fictionalizes what would happen to our world if a Carrington-Type Flare, similar to the one that hit earth on 1859. Such an event, it is argued by scientists, would destroy most of our technology: our power grid, water and food distribution, transportation,   communication, and most, if not all, common electronic devices. The result would be the mass death of hundreds of millions and would essentially send our society back to a new   Stone Age.

An astrophysicist featured in my book said it best, “Any day now we will be hit with a solar storm that will return us back to the Stone Age!” Dr. Carrington Reid



The Plan

One of the main characters of STONE AGE is a fictional scientist who, issues bulletins throughout the book to his subscribers, calling attention to the potential coming apocalypse.   Each bulletin is successively worse than the previous one, until the last (announced the day before The Event) says: “It is coming!” and describes the ensuing apocalypse that will follow.

I will have my fictional scientist broadcast each “Bulletin” each day on his website – I created one a few months ago for just this purpose – and then he will share that Bulletin via social media.

ML Banner will then share this with my social media audience, using appropriate hash tags, such as #IsThisReal? And a tag line like “Carrington Flare coming any day!”  I’ll ask a few influencers to do the same in different communities:  Prepper, Social, Sci-Fi, Science, Media, Conspiracy, etc.

My hope is that the story of this will be picked up by larger mainstream media services, leading up to the release of my book a day or two after the last Bulletin’s release.

Well there is my plan.  I admit a certain selfishness is behind this plan, as my ultimate goal is to sell more books.  But, I’m also very interested in calling attention to the seriousness of solar storms and what we can do to protect ourselves for the day when they will occur.

Want to get involved? Be sure to subscribe to my Twitter feed (ml_banner) or friend my author page (AuthorMLBanner) and then forward my appropriate posts to your followers/friends as well.

Well Orson, here goes nothing.

October is the Month of Max

Outspoken Max

He’s baaaack!

Your favorite character, Max Thompson is back in the new book, DESOLATION (coming very very soon). Those of you who have read STONE AGE, know him well. Those who haven’t read STONE AGE… Okay, what are you waiting for? Go read it! It’s only $2.99 for crying out loud or free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Sorry, I digress.

Max is that iconic character everyone loves. He’s a prepper, but he’s got a greater purpose than just protecting his own life from the apocalypse; he seems determined to protect the other main characters of STONE AGE, the Kings.

REVEAL: In DESOLATION, you will find out much more about why Max goes to such lengths to protect the Kings and why he made so many mistakes in preparing for the end of the world.

Max is one of those people who doesn’t care what others think about him and often speaks his mind. He doesn’t drink, but that’s only because he wants to be ready for whatever comes his way. He has no problem cussing, but he prefers to zing people more eloquently. However, he is mostly plain spoken and loves to tell people what’s what.

Because Max returns in DESOLATION, I thought it would be fun to usher in each day with Maxisms. That is one or two-liners from Max that need no explanation. So, for the rest of this month, almost every day, on Twitter (@ml_banner) I will post a Maxism under hastag #maxism. You’re not following me on Twitter? No problem, I will post them in the comments of this article as well.

Have your own Maxism? Post it in the comments. Let me know something Max would say.

Today’s Maxism comes from DESOLATION (after the Einstein quote):

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” ~ Albert Einstein

Al got it wrong – World War IV would be fought and won by whoever finds all the leftover guns.

~ Maxwell J. Thompson

Advanced Copy Reviewers Chosen


Advanced Copy Reviewers Found

Thanks to everyone who accepted the call to be an Advanced Copy Reviewer for DESOLATION!

As those of you know who are on my mailing list, I sent out a request for Advanced Copy Readers/Reviewers. I really didn’t expect so many would come forward so quickly. I reached my projected cut-off number long before the first day (Saturday) ended. However, I decided to accept all others who followed my directions and asked to be an ACR, through Sunday.

Unfortunately, I have to cut this off at some point. After all, I do need to sell a copy or two of the book. So, please forgive me for not accepting any more requests for ACRs at this time.

I hope you will still consider purchasing DESOLATION when it comes out in a few weeks. If you do, and you are willing to provide a review, I promise a worthy surprise.

To everyone who is subscribing to Apocalyptic Updates, I will give you more details in an announcement email shortly. You’ll even find out how to pick up a copy of DESOLATION for a buck or two less than the publication date price. But only subscribers will be told about this… Just one more reason why you need to subscribe to Apocalyptic Updates.

STONE AGE is going audio

Stone Age Audio BookI am excited to announce that Tantor Media, one of the top audio book publishers, has agreed to publish STONE AGE in audio book format. They were very enthusiastic to bring STONE AGE to an audio book audience, which is growing by leaps and bounds. There are also many readers, such as the blind, who only get to enjoy fictional books by audio.

Tantor releases about 80 books a month, but has wanted to offer more in the very popular sci-fi genre and its many sub-genres, like post-apocalyptic & dystopian fiction (my two favorites). My hope is that many more will now be able to experience STONE AGE.

After my helping them choose the narrator, Tantor should publish in CD and digital audio download, on all audio book marketplaces and later in libraries, sometime around November.

More announcements to follow.

Brewpub Q&A


Since STONE AGE was published in April, I had received loads of questions, criticisms and comments from readers either directly by email or through Amazon and Goodread’s reviews. I have really wanted to answer many of these, but it’s hard to do this by individual email and I don’t believe its right to interject my opinions on the review boards. This prompted another thought: After reading a book, I often have questions I would like to ask the author directly, but I was never given the chance. So I offer you the opportunity to ask me, ML Banner anything you want to know about STONE AGE. I have listed some of the most common questions or comments I’ve received. But you can also post your own questions directly below and I will do my best to answer them.

Set-up: Most things in life are done better over a cold beer. So, let’s imagine that we are holding our Q&A at a local brewpub where you can order your beer of choice – or fruit of the vine, if that’s your preference. You take your seat and gaze at the stage, its single chair, and a placard announcing this Brewpub Q&A. The spot lights turn on and I sit and get ready to take your questions.  “Tonight, we’re going to discuss STONE AGE,” I tell you, the audience.

So relax, pop the top on your best brew, or uncork your premium wine (why not pull out the good stuff?), and ask me about STONE AGE.

Spoiler Alert: If you have not read STONE AGE, do not read this: I don’t want to spoil any chance you have at uncovering the “Ah-ha” moments in the book.

ML Banner: Thanks for coming out tonight. First, cheers to you for reading the book (we foist our glasses up and toast). Now, can I have my first question.

Q: Alright Banner, what’s with that dang ending? Really, don’t you think that was a little abrupt?

A: Wow, tough crowd. This is the most common question or criticism I have received in reviews and personal emails. So, let me clear this up, if I can. If you will recall, a character named Gord who only pops up in the book’s opening chapter (from “A time long ago”) and in the last chapter, just revealed the big surprise ending: he’s not from our past but from our future. In other words, this is what our future will look like (assuming we are pummeled by never-ending CMEs). I wanted to end the book here to have the reader ponder this. But, with Gord getting thonked in the head, it’s one more reminder, as I have done throughout the book, that no matter what we do to prepare for the “what-ifs”, there is no way to fully prepare for every possible challenge.

I know this left a lot of you with an unfinished conclusion, where you thought there should be more. I could have continued for another fifty or one hundred pages, but then that would be a different story, wouldn’t it?

Q: Fess up Banner, this was just a ploy to sell book #2?

A: Okay, yep you got me there, somewhat. I wanted to really draw you into the next book, just like a cliff-hanger from a serial TV show. It was an experiment that worked for some and not for others. I promise not to do this again, at least without warning you better.

Q: So, book#2 won’t leave us hanging?

A: No! In fact Book#2 is a complete novel which will have closure at the end. It treats STONE AGE (Book#1) as a prequel, not just a continuation in a series. You won’t have to read STONE AGE first, although it would certainly help you understand the characters better and how our world got to where it is. It won’t answer all the questions (left in STONE AGE), but you will know what happens to most of the characters. There also will be a continuation in the series/saga and a book#3 – I’m not revealing the name yet.

Q: So, what is the name of Book#2: Is it New Realities, Stone Age II or something else?

A: DESOLATION. Although it deals with the “new realities” of this changed world, it is more about the desolation and difficulties all will face after the beginning of the new Stone Age chronicled in STONE AGE.

Q: How come you didn’t warn us better it was a series?

A: Well, you got me there. I did so later, but early on it didn’t occur to me as I thought it was obvious. I can only ask for forgiveness and promise not to do this again.

Q: So if you had to summarize, what is STONE AGE really about?

A: I wanted to stress two things:

First, we need to prepare for the worst when it comes to solar storms. We were almost “brought back to the Stone Age” in July 2012, when two CMEs missed us by only seven days. If they were emitted only seven days later, you would not be reading this: you would be scrounging for food! We need to prepare ourselves individually and to prepare our electrical grid. I’m suggesting that we spend some of our nation’s indebtedness on shielding most, if not all, of the over 4000 transformers that make up our grid and we need to do it now!

Second, as I said earlier, the book highlights that it is impossible to completely prepare for every calamity. After all, how could anyone know what was going to happen? Max was a perfect example of this: he prepared his entire life to protect the family he had sworn to protect, and yet he still wasn’t able to do so because of a Mexican drug cartel. That said, we should still prepare with what we have, so that if the SHTF, we aren’t completely broadsided.

Q: Why didn’t Max plan better? Come on Rocky Point is not the best location for a SHTF place.

A: You’ll have to read DESOLATION to find out why he did what he did – It’s answered there. However, this was also to point out that one of the best preppers in the story still didn’t plan for everything, even though he tried.

Q: Why the name Stone Age and not Iron Age or Middle Age or Pre-Industrial? We wouldn’t relying on stone tools, so that’s a little exaggerated isn’t it?

A: It’s more of a saying, which one of my main fictional characters said best, “If we have another Carrington Event, we’ll go back to the Stone Age.” But it is not to be taken literally. For instance, Albert Einstein says, “I don’t know how WW III will be fought, but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Was Albert being literal? Of course not, but that’s also why I had Max admonishing him in a follow up quote, “Come on Albert, WW IV will be fought and won by the men who find the leftover guns.”

Q: Is the CME Research Institute a real place?

A: Only if Dr. Carrington Reid is a real person. However, it must be true because they have a real website, right?

Q: Is this future (where we are unprotected and assaulted daily by CME’s) even possible?

A: Not really. The chances of the magnetosphere just stopping is highly unlikely… or is it? You’ll have to read DESOLATION to find out.

Q: Are you done with Stone Age Series after Book #3?

A: Probably, but I’m toying with releasing Russell Thompson’s Journal – I have it you know. I may also release a Stone Age Short Stories – This would reveal some other characters and what happened to them right before God turned off the lights.

Q: What about the profanity?

A: I don’t swear in real life, just ask my wife. I’ll use euphemisms like, “frack” or “fire-truck” instead. So it was hard for me to put swear words on paper, especially since many people hate this and it means that there are a lot of young adult readers that won’t read this because of the profanity. I personally believe using the F-word multiple times in a sentence is a sign of either stupidity or irrational thinking. I think I used the F-word only twice, and a couple of colorful Mexican slang swear words. When I did, it was my attempt at realism. For instance, when Bill used the F-word, it was only once and it was because he was angry at Max for pushing him to take the life of another person.

That said, I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 should read STONE AGE. It is way too dark and scary for anyone under 18 to read. My godchild (niece) wants to read it because her mother read it (after all, her Uncle wrote it). I told her no! I just wish that Amazon included a rating system on its books. I would rate it an R, even though I think the Academy would rate it a PG-13.

Q: Hey, I just realized your wife’s name is Lisa and you have a place in Rocky Point: Bill is married to a Lisa and they have a place in RP… Are you Bill?

A: Yes and no. I’m also part Max. In a way I’m all these characters since I relate to each one, even though each is different.

Q: A lot of the narrative focus is on some strong women: Darla, Sally, Lisa, & Melanie – Does that mean you should instead be writing for a ladies’ magazine?

A: That was my favorite criticism. I think the reviewer just wanted me to blow up more stuff in the story. He and others who agree will get some of their wishes fulfilled in DESOLATION.

Do you have any other questions? Please ask away.

I need to get another beer. I’ll be right back…